Judge Dismisses Challenge to Frac Sand Ban

A judge has dismissed a legal challenge to Winona County, Minn.’s ban on industrial frac sand mining, according to the Lacrosse Tribune.

Minnesota Sands, a company with leases on thousands of acres in southeast Minnesota, sued the county along with landowners who claim the 2016 ordinance violates their constitutional rights by singling out sand used for industrial purposes while permitting sand to be mined for construction uses.

In a written order, Winona County District Court Judge Mary Leahy dismissed the claims, ruing that the county board acted within its legislative capacity in adopting the ordinance and that the ordinance does not violate the plaintiffs’ rights to equal protection and due process nor U.S. commerce laws.

Leahy also ruled the ordinance does not amount to a “taking,” under which landowners are entitled to compensation when laws strip their property of all economic value. The plaintiffs never had the right to mine their lands as mining was a conditional use and required a permit even before the adoption of the ban. She also ruled the ordinance does not deprive them of “all economic value” as the land can still be used for other purposes.

Winona County was the first in Minnesota to completely ban mining of frac sand. Demand for frac sand led to a boom in mines across western Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota since 2009, though demand later waned with falling oil prices. Industry watchers expect demand to exceed the 2014 peak this year or next.

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